If you climb long enough, you will eventually find yourself in a precarious position that you didn’t plan for. Many unfortunate events can occur on the mountains, all of which might keep you on a rock-climbing face for hours longer than you expected. You might get your ropes stuck. The weather could turn terrible, or your climbing partner might become injured. In case any of these happen during your climb, it’s vital that you pack additional gear that will help you survive a long night in the mountains.
Leaving the items mentioned below in base camp won’t do you any good if you have to make an emergency bivy in the mountains. Fight the temptation to pack extra light, and bring these items along:
Pack These, Please
Knife or Multi-Tool
There are many situations in which a small knife can be useful in a climbing scenario. Knives are most commonly used when climbers have to cut webbing/cords. But they can also be handy when improvising during first aid scenarios, or while making gear repairs. Every member of a climbing team should carry a small knife or multi-tool, and secure it to your body/harness using a carabiner or leash.
Extra Food and Water
If you’re carrying the minimum amount of food and water you need to make it through your day comfortably, you’re too optimistic. If your day is longer than expected, you’re going to be hungry and thirsty – which is going to make you move slower, and put you at risk of making avoidable mistakes. Even packing just one extra liter of water and a few protein bars will give you a safety buffer for when your adventure goes sideways.
No mountaineer should ever be leaving home without their headlamp. Even if you’re heading out to the sport crag for a few hours, this light is an essential piece of equipment for when things go wrong. If you’re out alpine climbing, chances are you’re going to need a headlamp for an early morning start or a late night return; be sure that your batteries are brand new or that you’re carrying extra. There’s nothing worse than having to tie a rope in the dark.
Map or GPS
Depending on where you’re climbing, the importance of your navigation equipment will vary. However, if you’re climbing in a remotely located area or in an area that you’re unfamiliar with, navigation equipment is essential. People overestimate their ability to navigate, especially in the dark or when you’re fatigued; carrying a map or a GPS can be a simple solution to any navigation issues you might encounter.
Extra Clothes and Emergency Shelter
Seasoned alpinists often carry a small emergency bivy, just in case they have to spend a night in the mountains unexpectedly. Similarly, many climbers will bring an extra layer of clothes to keep them warm in an overnight bivy scenario. Single-use bivy sacks are incredibly lightweight and can be a lifesaver if you have to sleep in the mountains. If you pack smart, carrying extra clothes and an emergency shelter won’t add more than a pound to your pack, but these items can be crucial in an unexpected situation.
Climbing First Aid Kit
Basic medical supplies such as gauze are incredibly lightweight, so there’s no excuse for not carrying them. Carry a small first aid kit, in a waterproof wrapping, and make sure you know how to use it. Consider receiving wilderness first aid training; in many wilderness situations, tape and a little bit of ingenuity can go a long way in treating basic injuries that you might encounter – if you have proper training.
Remember, in a wilderness scenario help can be hours or days away, you don’t want to be stranded with no medical supplies.
Proper clothing, sunscreen, and sunglasses are all necessary for avoiding sun-related injuries. The sun takes a toll on the human body, taking necessary precautions will go a long way for your health and longevity. No one wants to deal with sunburns or snow blindness while they’re out on a long climb.
Better Safe Than Sorry
Remember, if you’re packing for a long day of climbing you need to bring a lot more than just your essential climbing equipment (such as ropes and cams). If you get tunnel vision and only think about your climbing gear, you’re going to be ill-prepared if anything goes wrong in the mountains. If you’re not prepared, your long night in the mountains is only going to get worse. Pack additional items that are essential for your safety; such as a knife, extra food/water, an emergency shelter, a headlamp, and a first aid kit.
For long climbs, it can be helpful, if not crucial, to understand Wilderness Travel and Route Finding.